If you are preparing to visit Saint Petersburg, you may wonder what top things you should see and do. Of course I recommend everything; this city has so much to offer! But if you are short on time or wondering where to start, here are ten things experiences everyone should have in Saint Petersburg to get you started.
- Lose yourself in the Hermitage. Set in the magnificent Winter Palace, the Hermitage extravagantly lives up to its reputation. Over three million artifacts — pottery, paintings, sculptures, and more — are showcased in 360+ rooms. To view everything in this massive collection requires nine years! No visit to Saint Petersburg is complete without a visit to the Hermitage.
- Be enchanted by the Church on the Spilled Blood. Wander the church while viewing the thousands of murals, take a tour to learn the history, or simply feel the wonder that is Church on the Spilled Blood. This is arguably the most extravagant church in Russia and you quickly realize why once you pass through the entrance doors. You can hear “wow” whispered in all corners, see curious eyes widened on tourists, and watch a proud step from locals.
- Watch a world-famous ballet. Saint Petersburg boasts two world-famous theaters — the Mariinsky and the Mikhailovsky. Ticket prices range widely, but I recommend splurging more for better seats if possible. Part of the magic disappears when straining your neck to see. A ballet critic I met said Mariinsky features traditional dance and Mikhailovsky more contemporary. I personally could not tell a difference, but I assume the experts know best. Take this in consideration if you are a ballet buff.
- Tour the world at KunstKamera. Saint Petersburg’s first museum impresses with its extensive ethnological and anthropological exhibits. Only one small exhibition consists of KunstKamera’s famous collection of ‘freaks’ — two-headed fetuses, deformed animals, etc. Everywhere else showcases rare objects and details cultural practices from around the world. Any avid traveler will enjoy walking around the world in one museum.
- Gawk at Catherine Palace. I felt the need to learn ballroom dancing during my tour of Catherine Palace. Although located in Pushkin, a nearby suburb of Saint Petersburg, many companies offer fairly-priced day trips to this magnificent palace and gardens. Linger in the glorious rooms, but be sure to include time for the stunning gardens. Summer is a lovely time to visit, but winter is my favorite.
- Walk the length of Nevsky. Measured at 4 kilometers-long (approximately 2.5 miles), Nevsky Prospekt is the main street of Saint Petersburg. Entertainment, palaces, museums, shopping, nightlife, and more are featured along Nevsky. Witnessing street life is best accomplished along Nevsky.
- Watch the sunrise over the Neva. For an unknown reason, the Neva is special. My heart filled with joy every time I peered over the river. Rushing to watch the 4am (or earlier) sunrise is always a worthy experience.
- Celebrate the White Nights. The last ten days of June, around the summer solstice, the sun appears to never set or rise. Unfortunately I have not experienced them, but my friends have confirmed my suspicions — the White Nights are magical.
- Eat pischki. Fried donut perfection. Enough said. Actually, let me recommend my favorite cafe — April 12th. I love the space and 50s/60s theme and the convenient location near the Hermitage.
- Eat blini. If you love pancakes and crepes, then you will love the more-savory blini. Enjoy jam, meat, or sour cream fillings.
What do you think are experiences everyone should have in Saint Petersburg?